Who’s your favorite rapper? This may be the most popular, most important, most repeated question for urban males between the ages of 13-33. Trailing a close second is “Where the weed at?”
Whether they admit it or not, everybody has a favorite rapper. & for the sake of argument, said favorite rapper can’t always be Tupac or one of the ever ominous 3-headed monster of the 90’s.
I’ve been asked who’s my favorite rapper thousands of times, if not more, & it doesn’t help matters that a) I used to rap, whatever the hell that means, & b) I run a Hip Hop website. Naturally people assume that since I’m so close to the cultural event horizon that I actually give a fuck about who’s the best. Which, I don’t, in case you were wondering. Not because I’m a bitter ex-rap nigga who couldn’t cut it as a real MC (lol), but because trying to pick 1 guy (or girl) out of a litter of dozens of thousands is no easy task. Most will say that someone is their favorite rapper because of history, comfortability, & familiarity, i.e. a Marshall or Corey fanatic, while other’s simply follow the trend as to who’s talked about the most at the time. On the same token, though, a lot of cats won’t tell you who their actual favorite rapper is, because admitting that they bump Aubrey or Dwayne when no one’s looking would be too much like giving those young men props. God forbid we stop all the hate & support good music (& other people, in general). But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a writer.
In order for something to be a favorite, it has to appeal to you on more than one level (that’s why there’s no legitimate plural form of the word), in a way unlike any other. Specifically special, if you will. Otherwise, it’s just lumped in with all the other shit you happen to like a lot. That said, for the most part, my top 3 rappers
dead or alive who can never be edged from those spots are (in no particular order): Redman, NaS, & Ice Cube. These choices aren’t affected by the current output of the artist, but again, the history, familiarity, & comfortability they’ve provided me with throughout my personal journey. Now, does that element alone qualify all of them to be my favorite rapper(s)? Absolutely, however, only one can be a favorite. That’s just fundamental math. Or science. In order to filter down the multiple results to 1, I decided to separate it into 3 categories. The 3 M’s: man, myth, & music.
From a fan’s (or supporter’s) vantage point, there’s only so much I’m willing to invest in a stranger’s life, but really though, what are you a fan of if not the provided entertainment? In which case, I say “the more, the merrier, by all means.” Each category gives another facet to said entertainment value, & that’s all that I’m here for. We can all agree that a rapper has to be the best at rapping, but there’s more to consider before saying that someone is your favorite anything than just what they do. Allow me to break it down further.
“The Man” A certain amount of admiration has to go into being a certified fan of someone. You have to care about things they do, inevitably forming a personal opinion regarding the imaginary relationship, or bond, you have with this person. Thusly, you become an admirer, or fan. Hand in hand with the admiration comes respect, although it’s common knowledge that you don’t have to respect an “artist” to be a fan of their movement. Otherwise Kid Cudi wouldn’t get attacked everywhere he goes. Anyway, does the artist do anything, outside of making rap songs, to keep your attention (in a healthy heterosexual way, that is)? Be it for better or worse, a man’s measure is judged by the content of his character as much as the content of his action(s). In other words, if your favorite rapper stays going to jail over shit that stopped being cute when niggas graduated high school, that speaks volumes about you, as a person, & the flock you follow. Hip Hop heads are as judgmental as widowed church wives at the annual Summer BBQ, & this is in direct connection to why defending a dude like Juaquin, on virtually any active rap-based comment thread online, will get you flooded with e-thuggery backlash the like of which Joe Budden himself would have to SMH at.
When the day’s done, if I’m going as far as to proclaim what’s tantamount to a Black man-crush or negromance (for lack of a better example of proper Hip Hop man-love) for some guy who not only doesn’t know I’m alive, but receives my proverbial monies to buy weed & ‘tang that he won’t be sharing with me, he better be the best, if you smell my cologne. It’s like how Eldridge Cleaver is my favorite Black Panther, if that means anything to you.
“The Myth” I won’t say Curtis fathered the art of the back story, but he made it work like none before him. Personally, I couldn’t give a damn about authenticity in the early 90’s, no matter how believable or ridiculous, but how can you miss something you never had? A rapper’s storytelling was his mysticism, his mythology. (For illustrative purposes, I’m positive I never used the term “street cred” before 1998.) The fact that he was even telling a story to begin with meant that he was there, close, or know somebody directly involved somehow. & that was good enough for most. Now, not so much. It’s mandatory to the success of the artist that, not only must he have a vaguely interesting back story to begin with, but it must precede his actual music. With the ‘Net so capable of turning any old housewife into a star, all you need is exposure & a reason to be exposed. It’s as formulaic as X + Y = Z. & since it’s not broke, it’s no point in trying to fix it. Improving on it, however, I’m all for.
“The Music” This aspect is possibly the most important, if only because rappers rap. Or, at least they should. Side antics & real-life mischief is always a bonus in the game of attention seeking, but they have no real place in the skill category of the competition. Rap is verbal art. No more, no less. & although it can be a learned trade, that manufactured version pales in comparison to those with the God-given ability at upper echelon word usage. Contrary to popular belief, however, is the fact that arbitrarily stringing rhyming words together doesn’t necessarily make you an artist. Fact. You can rap all Goddamned day without moving me. (Lil B, I’m talking to you.) It’s the way it’s said that determines where it lands. If a rap dude can make you tear up as quickly as get angry, or make you smile as fast as make you think, those are attributes that generally can’t be taught, ergo natural talent. That’s what separates a 2 album, flash-in-the-pan career from the De La Soul’s of Hip Hop, who still sell out shows, even if it’s places we’ve never heard of. That’s what being an artist garners you, long after the initial fanfare has cooled to a nonchalant simmer. & not for nothing, but if your favorite rapper can’t do those things, collectively, you should considered continuing your search for 1. It’s pretty cut & dry, depending on how seriously you take you music.
For the record, I’m always in support of people finding other shit, besides rap & basketball, to be good at. The world is a huge place. Just saying.
I’m still no closer to coming to a conclusion as to who is truly my favorite rapper, & it’s safe to say these dudes will be a tie in my hea until I’m dead. Although I’ll say that O’Shea always gets Cali points, which are doubled during peak hours.